Postgraduate study in Nigerian universities ought to be hitch-free for students. However, the experiences of postgraduate students in these universities is a source of concern for many. Orient Daily cornered some students who have gone through the programme at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, UNIZIK, Awka, during the university’s 13th convocation ceremony recently. Gabriel Chy Alonta writes on this experience, also speaking with the graduates some among whom vowed never to return to the university for further academic work.
It is usual for administrations to set their agenda as basis for their operation and assessment over a period or tenure. The incumbent vice chancellor of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra state, Prof. Joseph Ahaneku, may have done very well in infrastructure, research and other related academic areas, but there is no perfection with humans.
In spite of the achievements of the Ahaneku tenure, which ends June 3, 2019, the university’s School of Postgraduate Studies is believed to need urgent attention if the institution is to remain relevant in raising young and future scholars capable of impacting the fortunes of university education in Nigeria.
Inquiries have indicated increasing groans and lamentations among those who have done postgraduate studies in the university, particularly on the prolongation of their programmes. This is contrary to the duration usually stipulated in students’ admission letter – 18 months and, at least, three years, respectively for masters and doctorate degree programmes.
Orient Daily investigations have revealed that these durations have hardly been adhered to depending on the type of supervisor assigned to students, the faculty post graduate studies coordinator and the head of department. Of course, there are also the issues of the seriousness of the student, the release of results, ability of the students to credit all their courses and the process of signing forms in preparation for any defence/examination which the graduates describe as cumbersome. This is not to forget the delay in scheduling students for examinations, poor staff-student relationship, lack of adequate monitoring and evaluation by the PG School, the excessive work load on lecturers and the often-lackadaisical attitude of some supervisors, among others.
Recounting his ordeal, a 2013 graduate of the university, Cheta Onuecheta, remarked that Nigeria was under intellectual capacity decay, decrying that the situation in Nigerian tertiary institutions could not be compared that elsewhere.
Onuecheta, who disclosed that he dumped his master’s degree programme in UNIZIK four years ago on discovering that those who started the programme since 2011 were yet to defend their thesis. He further argued that most of his friends who continued with the programme were yet to graduate as at this time; and that, for a supposedly 18-month programme.
He wondered why the vice chancellor and the university senate would be mute over such development in the university, leading to hindrance to the smooth running of academic programmes, asking “How many departments in UNIZIK have updated online presence within the school website? How many have programmes verifiable just through their online portal?
“What about the curriculum used in the programme? How often are they updated? I wonder why lecturers will want students to fail just to be seen as tough and hard working.
“A lot is wrong with the system, we need to get it working again, instead of celebrating mediocrity”, he lambasted.
One of the master’s degree graduands, Blessing, who spoke with this reporter, also regretted applying to the university.
Hear her lamentations, “Many people are congratulating me on the successful completion of my academic programme, but I don’t see why it should be celebrated after over four years on it.
“How do you expect me to be happy? There were 33 of us in my set and only three graduated today. How do you rationalise this? Do you know that I paid over N115,000 per annum for my school fees plus other dues? This is height of extortion. How can the management of this school allow such?”
“Can you believe that after I submitted my work for faculty defence/examination, that it took the school a year before they could schedule my defence. I stayed idle for one year. What a colossal waste of time and money?
“The most annoying is that even those supervisors and PG coordinators, who are the architect of the delay will join others to tell you congratulations, and will shamelessly remind you that you are lucky to have graduated after four years for an 18-month programme.”, she exclaimed.
“They (postgraduate school) gave us an assessment form to fill asking us about our experiences with our departmental heads etc. This isn’t fair”
“Frankly speaking, I cannot advice anyone to do any postgraduate programme in this university, not even my enemies”, she avowed.
This paper recalls that, in an interview sometime with the immediate past dean of postgraduate studies, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Prof. Ike Odimegwu, he noted that delay in graduation of PG students could be traced to a number of factors.
According to him, if there are disruptions in the educational sector due to industrial action, self-motivation and commitment of lecturers and supervisors which he said may come from attitudinal idiosyncrasies of human beings which can affect whatever they do.
“On the part of students, we usually admit postgraduate students based on their cumulative average, FCGPA, but we noticed that a good number of applicants with good FCGPAs, when admitted, have low performance in lectures and research.
“Before they could tidy their poor results, the years will go by and that is why in 2014, the board, school of postgraduate studies resolved and directed that part of admission process for PG be screening test and proposal defence, instead of relying only on FCGPA that has, over time, proven not to be reliable.
Odimegwu, who is also the former chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU), UNIZIK chapter, fingered lack of good research facilities in the delays, adding, however, that UNIZIK had witnessed improved graduation in recent times.
Echos from students:
I abandoned my M.Sc. programme in UNIZIK and that was the best decision I have ever made. I guess people I got the admission with are still there in Awka. Total waste of money and time.
I dropped out of my M.S.c programme after over two years and there is no regret at all. We have good lecturers, but they are more dedicated to the B.Sc. programme than the postgraduate studies. It still beats my imagination why they would seek for accreditation for tasks they cannot execute efficiently. I advise my friends not to enrol for postgraduate studies until things change in UNIZIK.
Eight of my friends had to withdraw from UNIZIK postgraduate when they realised that those before them had not defended their thesis. I quietly went to Unilorin.
The UNIZIK postgraduate studies is another herculean task. I just wanted a change of environment when I decided to enroll for my master’s in another school not knowing it was God directing me. Why on earth would a program of 18 months be for years. This is crazy and superfluous.
It’s same issues in all our institutions of higher learning. Lecturers frustrating students. We are just surviving by the mercy of God.
As the new vice chancellor of the university of all times, Prof. Charles Esimone, sets to take over the mantle of leadership, it becomes imperative to bring to his notice the need to tackle the ongoing anomalies in the institution’s postgraduate school. It might, indeed, be the first task if the dwindling population of applicants to its postgraduate programmes is to be checked.
Prof. Esimone, who is the immediate past deputy vice chancellor (Academic), will be formally assuming office June 4, 2019. Since his appointment last Tuesday, May 14, 2019, he has been described by many as a “good man”, whose presence/leadership would help to heed the call to fix the postgraduate school of the university.
The stage is set and hopes are high for the incoming vice chancellor, who hails from Akwaeze in Aniocha local government area of Anambra state. How effectively he will tackle this lingering situation will go a long way in defining how successful his tenure will be. A stitch in time, they say, saves nine, but this time, it could save thousands of postgraduate students or those seeking to enrol for any advanced degree programme in the university for all times. An injury to one arm of the university, is an injury to all its arms.